How Close to a Property Line Can I Build a Garage?

Building a detached garage? Most cities have local setback laws that regulate just how closely you’re allowed to build to your property line.
Written by Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Before you jump into construction on your new garage, you’ll need to know the setback regulations for your area, which determine how close you can build to your property line. 
Looking to increase your storage space with a new garage? If you’re planning on building a detached structure on your property, you’ll need to know more than just its dimensions. Most cities and municipalities have local regulations in place that determine where you can build a detached structure—like your new garage—even on your own property.
These local regulations are called setbacks—but what are they exactly, and how do you get the information you need? Look no further than
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What is a setback?

A setback is a general regulation on a structure that determines how close it can be to other buildings on the property. Setbacks also dictate how close structures can be to property lines—or, in other words, how far they must be “set back” from the property line.
Unfortunately, setback regulations aren’t uniform, even on a state level. Individual municipalities tend to dictate their own rules and guidelines, making for lots of variation in setbacks from place to place. 

Why you need to know about setbacks

Generally speaking, you’re pretty much entitled to do on your property as you please. 
But if you’re building new structures, there are often various local laws that dictate where you can build on your property, along with other structural features like how big or tall your structure can be. 
These regulations are primarily in place to protect property values—both yours and your neighbor’s. Setbacks are among such regulations, but they can get a little trickier to decipher than simple size codes. 
Setbacks not only vary from place to place—but they can also vary from yard to yard! You may be subject to different setbacks depending on whether you’re putting your garage in your front or back yard (or even on the side of your house). In fact, each side of your yard will likely have its own setback rules. 
That’s why any good garage-building project should include adequate research into your area’s setback guidelines! 

Building codes and setback rules

Although exact setback requirements differ, the standard setback is 5 to 10 feet from your property line. You’ll likely also have to set back your garage at least 15 feet from your main home—although you’ll want to double-check your area’s building codes for the specifics. 
For garages, municipalities may also have building codes that regulate the maximum height and length requirements and potentially even the materials you can use to build your garage in the first place. 

Violating setbacks

Building directly along your property line isn’t typically allowed for several reasons. For one, you can wind up accidentally encroaching on your neighbor’s property, especially if you’re not one-hundred-percent confident in where your property lines actually are. 
For another, it can cost you—literally. Violating setback rules can result in expensive fines, and probably also the demolition of your hard-built structure. 

Zero setback garages

In the past, garages were often built directly along property lines, or at the intersecting corners of property lines. These garages are known as “zero setback” garages since they were constructed directly on property lines. 
In some cases, you can still build a garage with zero setback—namely, if you’re replacing or repairing an existing garage that’s built on the property line. You also may be able to get away with a zero setback garage if your property is relatively small, or if the structure won’t have any protruding overhangs or architecture that could cross onto the neighboring property. 
Your local building department will likely have guidelines for building zero setback garages, although you should be prepared to find them stricter than regular setbacks. 
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Building a new garage on your property

Now that you know about setbacks, you can start planning your garage! 
The first step is to research—determining your local setback regulations will help you locate the perfect place to build your structure. You’ll also need to know them to plan the size of your space and draw up any blueprints. From there, you can assemble the required building materials (compliant with local building codes, of course!) and get to work.
Usually, you won’t need to acquire a permit before breaking ground on your new garage, so long as your structure is compliant with setbacks, is at least 300 square feet, is properly ventilated, and does not interfere with local drainage or ground wires. 

Setbacks for other structures

We’ve covered the general guidelines for building a garage on your property. But what about other structures? As with garages, additions, sheds, fences, and even homes are subject to unique setback regulations:
  • Homes: For building an entirely new residence, setback guidelines range between 5 and 10 feet from the property line on either side and 10 to 20 feet in front and back. 
  • Sheds: Like garages, the exact setbacks for sheds can vary greatly depending on where you live. In general, sheds should be at least 5 feet from a front or rear property line, and at least two feet from your property lines on either side. 
  • Fences: Some cities allow for shared fences built along property lines—in these cases, the fence often becomes the equal responsibility of the property owners who share that fence line. In other places, you’ll run into setbacks, most commonly between two and eight inches for new fences. 
  • Additions: Building an addition or expansion on your main home will typically take more planning, as most towns and cities determine specific size and height guidelines in addition to enforcing setbacks. 

Does home insurance cover detached structures?

Want to protect your newly built garage with
homeowner’s insurance
? Luckily, you can—most homeowner’s insurance policies include dwelling coverage that protects your home from vandalism and damage—and a percentage of this coverage is extended to detached structures, like garages
Typically, that is 10% of the coverage. So if you’ve got $200,000 worth of dwelling coverage included in your policy, your garage (or fence, or shed) would be covered for up to $20,000 worth of damage. 

Finding affordable home insurance

Now that you’ve done all the work of building your brand-new garage, make sure your structure is protected (and find great savings on your
homeowner's insurance
) with
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In most cases, you won’t need planning permissions or a permit to build a new garage, so long as your garage is compliant with local zoning and setback regulations. If you intend on including any special or out-there features—like a lofted bedroom above your garage—you’ll want to get in touch with your city’s building department to ensure you’re meeting all the legal requirements.
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